Willis turning into human highlight reel

PULLMAN – The final week of spring practices at Washington State were launched with a bang on Tuesday. Actually, it was more akin to a sonic boom. And once again, as he has been so many times since the pads went on last month, Michael Willis was the instigator. In 11-on-11 drills, the sophomore strong safety from Tacoma obliterated another offensive player -- this one weighing 30 pounds more than Willis.

The hit by the 6-3, 205-pound Willis on 6-5, 237-pound tight end Ben Woodard was yet another cage rattler in a spring season that has seen him bring the big wood to practice early and often.

Three of the most dominating hits of the spring belong to the former All-State performer from Lincoln High who was once characterized as the hardest hitting prep player in the state of Washington.

In the scrimmage on Saturday he unleashed a jaw-dropper on wide receiver Chris Jordan, and two days before that he and running back DeMaundray Woolridge played like a pair of charging rhinos in a collision that is still echoing across the Palouse.

And then there was Tuesday's hit on Woodard. Remarkably, the big tight end from Cheney hung onto the ball. Willis put Woddard on his back almost the moment the pass from Alex Brink landed in his hands.

The hit could be heard across the field and drew cheers from the defense. After helping Woodard to his feet, Willis ran to the defensive huddle where he was greeted like a rock star.

As a true freshman in 2005, Willis saw action mostly on special teams but has been getting a ton of reps this spring with starting safety Eric Frampton, a big-time head-cracker himself, on the sidelines with a knee injury.

"He's going to be a player and we have to find a place for him to play because he will bring it," head coach Bill Doba said of Willis on Saturday.

If the season opener at Auburn were tomorrow, there is little doubt Willis would earn the starting nod at strong safety over junior Christian Bass. But Frampton is expected back at full health in the fall.

Outside of the big hit by Willis, there was little else to cheer about Tuesday. The defense was porous in stopping the run and the offense produced a litany of poorly executed plays.

Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge had an interception during 6-on-7 drills when Brink sailed one to the right side to Woolridge, who lost his grip on the ball and sent it right into the hands of Brackenridge.

The final practice of the spring season is this afternoon, with everything concluding Saturday in the annual Crimson & Gray game. Kickoff is set for noon at Martin Stadium.

The battle to be the starting punter has been a tight one all spring between Darryl Blount and Fritz Brayton, and the results from Saturday's scrimmage offer testament. Each of them punted five times. The longest for both went 50 yards. Blunt, who is thought to have the edge in the battle, averaged 40.4 yards per boot and Brayton 41.6.

For more insight into Tuesday's practice, click to the front page story SPRING BALL DAY 13: NO. 1 RB, CENTER TABBED

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